Public safety minister downplays allegations of waste at RCMP
Last Updated: Monday, April 27, 2009 | 5:40 PM PT
The federal public safety minister tried Monday to minimize the effects of apparent waste and duplication at the RCMP, which uses two incompatible computer systems — one for B.C. and another for the rest of the country — that cost taxpayers an extra $9 million a year.
"So while it is not ideal horizontally and nationally, certainly from a local policing perspective, you can see why that particular arrangement would be seen as preferable," Peter Van Loan told the House during question period on Monday. "We're continuing to work on ways of integrating it overall."
Internal documents obtained by the CBC under an Access to Information request revealed last week that the extra costs of running two RCMP computer systems to house data about criminal cases is "conservatively estimated" at more than $9 million a year.
Development and rollout of the two systems cost the RCMP at least $105 million — about $41 million for the B.C. system dubbed PRIME and $64 million for the national system called PROS.
Ujjal Dosanjh, Liberal MP for the riding of Vancouver South, asked Van Loan what steps he'd take to end "this mismanagement and incompetence."
"Again, the function the RCMP are playing in most of British Columbia is local policing. That is pursuant to a contract with the province of British Columbia," Van Loan said. "That province actually pays for 90 per cent of the costs of that policing. The federal government pays 10 per cent."
The documents, however, showed at least $32 million of the $41 million for the B.C. system came from the federal Treasury Board.
2 warned senior managers
Several officers had repeatedly warned senior management that the decision would cost a fortune and create major hurdles for sharing information across the RCMP, but the top brass decided to allow the separate B.C. system.
The "loss of functionality" caused by the two systems "will not be defensible in any public accountability forum," Supt. Chuck Walker, head of RCMP operations systems, wrote in a Sept. 25, 2007, email obtained as part of the access request.
"This is particularly true when one understands that there is absolutely no operational advantage to be gained by having the federal units remain on PRIME," he added.
The two systems aren't integrated and must be accessed through a portal, making the RCMP the only major police service in Canada, possibly the world, to use two separate record management systems, the documents say.
Records management systems allow officers to share information on cases by uploading photos, witness statements and other information that can then be accessed by Mounties across the system.
In early 2003, the B.C. government ordered the RCMP, which is contracted to serve as the provincial police force, to get on board the PRIME system as part of a province-wide information sharing system among police forces.
Then-RCMP commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli agreed, even though the RCMP was in the process of purchasing its own system.
By August 2004, the RCMP had deemed PRIME unsuitable for its purposes and began rolling out a national system dubbed PROS, made by Winnipeg's Niche Technology. By late 2005, PROS was being used by the RCMP outside B.C. at about 650 detachments, plus Interpol Ottawa and all National Security Investigation offices.
Before that, the RCMP had operated under a national system called PIRS but needed to replace the outdated technology.
Retired chief superintendent Gavin Berube said he was one of the first officers to raise a red flag about duplication in 1998, when he was an inspector working on finding a new system for the RCMP.
But when he raised the issue at work, Berube says he became a persona non grata and was sent home for an extended period of paid leave.
Among the documents obtained by CBC, a critical report written by Walker and sent to the federal Auditor General, says there are "major gaps" in PRIME that would be "impractical or extremely costly" to fix.
The PRIME system, made by Ottawa-based Versaterm, is capable of operating in French. But the documents indicate the system used by Mounties in B.C. is operating solely in English, which may raise the question whether the federal police force is violating the Official Languages Act.
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